Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Theater review: The A Gays: Stillwater, Oklahoma at Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park in Dallas
John Michael forces the audience to look at current social issues through his experiences.
Nouveau 47 and Artist John Michael offer a poignant, mature look at what we all know yet sadly sometimes ignore with The A Gays: Stillwater, Oklahoma (playing at the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park in Dallas through April 14). This is a masterpiece of live theatre everyone should take the time to see. Whatever your sexual preference, this story carries a message ALL should hear!
In this production of the A Gays, John wants to undress every cute guy he sees at his Oklahoma State University campus, but being visibly gay in Stillwater, Oklahoma is close to suicide. It gets better for John as he becomes an initiated member of The A Gays. When not in class, this clique of college gays retreat to Gay Headquarters, a party-house-turned-paradise. Here they can get as wildly drunk as they want without fear of getting called faggot by holding hands. But not just any gay can waltz up and let their hair down at Gay HQ -- there is an entrance policy: NO UGLIES ALLOWED.
For people who deal with so much hate, the A Gays do a little hating of their own. A national epidemic of gay teen suicides from bullying emboldens these boys to become a presence on campus. They resolve to end hate. Blending gender lines, they transform themselves into the beautifully androgynous. The tactic is to engulf all of the ugliness of Stillwater's homophobia with A Gay prettiness. The A Gays: Stillwater, Oklahoma is about the bullied turned bully.
Nouveau’s space is a basic black box with a thrust stage, putting the audience right in the action, and direction by Matt Tomlanovich uses that to his advantage very well. (I found that out the hard -- and a bit embarrassing -- way during a scene that actually made me blush.) An empty stage with general lighting and one sparse “interrogation-like” lamp hangs over the center. Nothing more is needed in this production as you are engulfed by the story being told by its writer and one-man performer, John Michael. It states in the program John Michael studied under the director, an Oklahoma State University professor, and it was an excellent choice as these two have become a masterful creative team.
There is no doubt this is an adult-oriented production, but for this story and its perspective, it has to be. There are hilarious, sad, and heart-wrenching moments that all need to be delivered in a way that is not sugar-coated. At no time does the story seem silly or flighty; Michael tells and shows an intimate portrayal of hate and bigotry from both sides ... ironically stemming from the same person.
Michael uses his past experience interwoven with current events and media accounts to give a heartfelt explanation of his coming out as a gay man in college. He shows you the stereotypes, the expectations, and then surprises you with aspects people don’t know ... or want to know. He portrays many different characters he encounters on this journey and does a wonderful job of delineating each one with physicality, vocal inflections, and movement. He uses wonderfully artistic styles and representation of intimacy without robbing it of its meaning or feeling. Yes there is quite a, shall I say ... in your face portrayal of, ahem ... self-exploration, yet even with the physical actions you’re watching it’s the message that is heard.
It is that message I refer to in my introduction to this review. Michael forces the audience to look at current social issues through his experiences in a way you can apply to many different beliefs and moral dilemmas. I am a gay man myself and understood, personally, some of the morality of his story, yet learned from some I hadn't even thought to apply to my own life. Listening to the patrons after the performance, two of whom identified themselves as a heterosexual couple, I was pleasantly surprised to hear they received and interpreted the message and were just as moved by the presentation of it as I was. Yes Michael, you’ve found your “Glide,” as have I ... I also expect many more will, too, after viewing this wonderful performance!
This production reinforces the Nouveau 47 mantra “...devoted to nurturing artists and serving new audiences through plays and events that balance revolution and relevance, tradition and modernity” in a spectacular way and you definitely need to take time to see Michael perform this work of art.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
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